An Election Day that could end with Republicans winning a Senate majority for President Obama’s final two years in office is finally here.
Tuesday is likely to be a good Election Day for Republicans. The question is whether it will be a great one. Here’s what to watch for early on, during what will be a long election night.
If Sens. Kay HaganKay HaganLinking repatriation to job creation Former Sen. Kay Hagan in ICU after being rushed to hospital GOP senator floats retiring over gridlock MORE (D-N.C.) and Jeanne Shaheen Jeanne ShaheenRussian interference looms over European elections Restore funding to United Nations Population Fund Senators urge Tillerson to meet with Russian opposition activists MORE (D-N.H.) both lose, Republicans will almost be guaranteed to gain the six seats they need to take back the Senate.
A victory in either of the tightening races could let the GOP breathe easy early on — and portend a big night.
Margins matter as well. If both Hagan and Shaheen are cruising to victory early on, Democrats will feel much more optimistic about the ground game they’ve been touting — and their chances of holding the Senate.
“We’re going to see early on that Jeanne Shaheen and Kay Hagan have been reelected and that it will be a long and interesting election night that ultimately leads to us holding the majority,” said Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee spokesman Justin Barasky.
Close races, on the other hand, would make it a nail-biting night for Democrats.
And if either Hagan or Shaheen loses, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnellMitch McConnellJuan Williams: Trump's 100 days wound GOP Judd Gregg: Trump gets his sea legs This week: Congress returns to government shutdown fight MORE (R-Ky.) may know whether he’s going to be majority leader by the time his own race is called.
Polls close in North Carolina at 7:30 p.m. and at 8 p.m. in New Hampshire. They close at 7 p.m. in Kentucky.
Will Georgia go to a runoff?
Businessman David Perdue (R) has regained his lead against former charity executive Michelle Nunn (D), according to most recent public polling, and Republicans are feeling much better about his chances of holding Georgia.
Still, polls show the race remains close, and if neither candidate reaches 50 percent the race will head to a Jan. 6 runoff. Libertarian candidate Amanda Swafford could play spoiler. If she can win 2 to 3 percent of the vote, strategists think Perdue and Nunn will go to overtime.
Both parties claim they can pull off an outright victory, with Perdue’s allies more confident as recent polling shows the Republican with 48 percent support.
Even if Georgia goes to a runoff, Republicans are confident given their recent history of winning such elections in the state.
“We are going to win the majority, period, whether it’s in November or January,” said one national GOP strategist. “Perdue is surging in the latest polls and is very close to 50 percent. … Regardless, you really think Nunn fares better in the runoff than in the [general election]? Nope.”
How many House seats will GOP gain?
The House map is much smaller this election cycle, but there are also an unusually high number of close contests given the small playing field.
Both parties are in for a long night given the fact that some of the most competitive races are in California and Arizona. As a result, unless there are some major surprises or every early race breaks toward one party, it will be hard to guess early on whether Republicans will reach their goal of netting 11 seats.
For clues, look to Georgia, West Virginia, New Hampshire, Florida and Illinois. Polls will close in all of those states at or before 8 p.m., and they will generate more than a half-dozen races to watch.
Democratic Reps. John BarrowJohn BarrowOur democracy can’t afford to cut legal aid services from the budget Dem files Ethics complaint on Benghazi panel Barrow thanks staff in farewell speech MORE (Ga.), Carol Shea-Porter (N.H.), Nick RahallNick RahallWest Virginia is no longer Clinton country Solution needed: Rail congestion is stifling economic growth Lobbying World MORE (W.Va.), Joe GarciaJoe GarciaFreshman Curbelo wins reelection in Fla. LGBT Republican groups campaigning for Curbelo in Fla. House Democrats amplify anti-Trump strategy MORE (Fla.), Bill Enyart (Ill.) and Brad Schneider (Ill.) are all in tough races, with Enyart, Rahall and Garcia in trouble most of all. On the GOP side, Rep. Steve Southerland (Fla.) is in a tough fight.
How will Republicans do in Northeast?
In a very good night for Republicans, Democratic Reps. Ann Kuster (N.H.), Cheri BustosCheri BustosMembers jam with Wynonna Judd, Keith Urban at Grammys on the Hill Overnight Regulation: Justices won't halt Obama water rule case | Greens, states sue over delayed energy rules Lawmakers ask Sessions to exempt federal prisons from hiring freeze MORE (Ill.), Dan Maffei (N.Y.) and Sean Patrick Maloney (N.Y.) will be in trouble, as well as Seth Moulton, the Democrat running for Rep. John Tierney’s (D-Mass.) seat.
“If we lose them that’s a sign the environment hangs us and it projects bad things for the rest of the races,” said one national Democratic strategist.
Other early races to watch include battles for the seats of retiring Reps. Frank WolfFrank WolfTrump, global religious freedom needs US ambassador to lead Bottom Line 10 most expensive House races MORE (R-Va.) and Jon Runyan (R-N.J.), and Rep. Shelley Moore CapitoShelley Moore CapitoEconomic adjustment strategies for the 21st Century Coal-country advocates push aid for jobless miners ‘Nuclear’ cloud looms over Trump agenda MORE (R-W.Va.), who is favored to win her Senate race.
Republicans are favored in all of those contests, so if those races flip to Democrats the GOP will be less confident about making big gains.
If Republicans start winning in New York and New Hampshire, it’s a bad omen for Democrats.
“If we’re winning seats in the Northeast it’s an indicator that it will likely be a great night,” said one national GOP strategist.